is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Writers Draw the Darndest Things
I’ll be honest: I’ve always known Alissa as a terrific writer, first and foremost. I knew she had a background in art direction, but I’ve always thought of her as more of an author than a visual designer. When she asked if she could create September’s Illustrate Me illustration (“’Cause my birthday’s in September,” she said, so wish her a belated birthday), I figured she’d be likelier to come up with a really clever idea than she’d come up with a visual tour de force.
So I didn’t expect her to turn in as disarmingly great an illustration as this — it’s as uninhibited and engaging a piece as any that have been done for Illustrate Me so far; in fact, it’s got more visual wallop than some of its predecessors that were created by actual, money-earning visual designers, and it also happens to be one of the graphically strongest pieces yet. I dig it.
Questions for Alissa Walker
Where did you get the idea for this Illustrate Me?
I just got back from Spain where everything good about the world is crammed onto the tiny blackboards behind tapas bars. They’re these little temporary masterpieces — loaded up with information, then wiped clean every night. I wanted to create a menu of the freshest posts, like the specials of the day. I’m suddenly very hungry.
What I like about this piece is that it’s so unexpected, even more hand-drawn than any of the others, and it’s so informal. Is this the kind of design that you gravitate towards as design writer?
It depends. I’m a big crafter so I definitely admire anything created by hand. But I’m most fascinated by designers who have this beautiful stuff coming out of their computer and then say, “Oh, by the way, I can’t draw a thing.” Really? That’s impressive. I actually wanted to be an art director until I started learning the computer programs. I can thank QuarkXPress 3.3 for launching my writing career.
How much bearing do you think drawing skills have on a person’s ability to design? How much should they have?
I hate to answer anything that will make me sound like any kind of authority on design, which I’m certainly not. But I would think drawing is simply a way for you to better understand what you’re designing, and in that case, I’d also highly advocate writing. It doesn’t even have to be about your work:аjust get it down, and get it out there. It will change the way you absorb the world, and I can’t think of anything better for a designer than that. Except maybe eating tapas in Spain.+